On the history trail: Dabhades and the Peshwa

Khanderao Dabhade, appointed as Senapati by Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj on 11 January 1717 had once been a competent leader. However, he was greatly overshadowed by the dashing Peshwa Bajirao who had proved his mettle more than once. The Peshwa on his part continued to serve the Chhatrapati assiduously by raising independent armies to secure the boundaries and lead expeditions when required.


This gradually led to a visible dilution of the importance and services of the office of the Senapati which did not go down well with the Dabhade family. When Khanderao passed away on 27 September 1729, his son Trimbakrao was appointed as Senapati on 8 January 1730 at Satara.


Both Trimbakrao and his mother Umabai were excessively rude, arrogant and animus towards the Peshwa and left no opportunity to criticize him and his family. They were jealous of his ascendancy and military capabilities.


Shahu Raje had assigned the province of Gujarat and parts of Khandesh to the Senapati. When Chimaji Appa entered Gujarat in 1730 and won it from Sarbuland Khan, the Peshwa claimed his share of the spoils. The Marathas enforced the terms of chauth and sardeshmukhi for the province like was done for Malwa and Maharashtra.


As Sarbuland Khan failed to hold Gujarat against the Marathas, he was recalled by the ruler of Delhi and Abhay Singh was appointed in his place. This only complicated matters more as Shahu Raje was unable to arrive at a compromise and therefore, mutual antagonism followed.


Trimbakrao protested strongly against the Peshwa and what he deemed to be interference on his part. However, he found Shahu Raje to be a patient listener who did not take his complaint very seriously. It must be noted that this expedition to Gujarat and Malwa had been undertaken by the Peshwa and Chimaji Appa to repay the considerable debts that Shahu Raje had incurred over the years.


Trimbakrao began his own preparations for an armed conflict at a time when Deep Singh was in Satara in 1730 to discuss the matters of Malwa. Trimbakrao had several powerful local chieftains of Baglan, Khandesh and east Gujarat under him who had been won over by the Peshwa.


This angered both Umabai and Trimbakrao who then started negotiations with the Nizam to secure his assistance to counter the Peshwa‘s aggression. Nizam-ul-Mulk who had been handed a humiliating defeat at Palkhed was trying to lure away some of Shahu Raje and the Peshwa‘s men such as Kanhoji Bhosle, Sarlashkar Nimbalkar and others.


The Nizam was obviously thrilled at the prospect of an alliance with Trimbakrao to take on the Peshwa. It was also evident that the local chiefs would severely hinder his future if they were to support the Peshwa. He then took it upon himself to crush them one by one with his powerful artillery.


The end of 1730 showed signs of impending war and test of loyalty.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian


* Information about Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj is taken from archives

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